5 Project Management Phrases That Are Completely Overrated

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Do you have an evergreen relationship with business jargon?

Do your coworkers regularly try to see the insides of their eyelids when you talk about your game changing itinerary that gets the ball rolling?

Do you regularly talk about golden parachutes, knowledge acquisition, and wheelhouses?

You, my friend, are deep into the cave of business buzzwords.

Believe it or not, there is another world out there, a world with rich language that actually makes sense. You might have to rough it out of the cesspool of terrible business language, but once you see the light of actual communication, you’ll never want to return to the world of jargon.

(As an aside, even if you emerge from the shadows of “wow factors” and “low-hanging fruit,” there’s no guarantee that other jargon prisoners will want to escape. Business jargon is all they’ve known. The bright space of normal communication will not appeal to everyone.)

Without further ado, here are the five project management phrases that you need to stop using. Stat.

1. Let’s leverage our resources

Why don’t we break down this phrase:

  • Leverage: use (something) to maximum advantage
  • Resources: materials, money, staff, and other assets necessary for effective operation

In other words, leveraging your resources means making the most of what you have.

Wasn’t that a lot simpler?

But let’s turn it around. What project manager would say, “Let’s try to plan this thing as ineffectively as possible”?

None. And if that is something you do say, I recommend leveraging your time to find a different profession.

2. Nine women cannot have a baby in one month

This phrase is all to say, “All the resources in the world can’t account for the impact of time.”

While comedic the first time, this project management phrase can be found everywhere.

Seriously.

I’m talking about its now-abundant use in Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and New York Magazine (while quoting Warren Buffett, who claims to be the progenitor of this phrase). It’s no longer cute; it’s no longer even funny.

Using this phrase can isolate up to half of your employees: women. The idea here is that a woman’s job is unifunctional: to produce babies, or more specifically, to use their bodies to produce babies. Sure, the phrase gets the point across, but not without wayward glances from your female coworkers.

I’m a big fan of saying exactly what you mean. Get rid of the metaphor and simply say: “We need more time; more resources won’t help.”

3. We’re on a death march

Welcome to the world of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

When you say that a project is on a death march, you imply that it’s doomed from the start. The project doesn’t have enough resources, manpower, stakeholder buy-in, or time to appropriately get the job done from the beginning.

The death march means that your project is headed toward failure and there’s nothing you or your team can do about it.

First of all, the entire reason project management jobs exist is to prevent imminent failures. If your team, or worse, you start using the term “death march,” your project is not well led or planned. If your team is uninspired to get their work done, that’s on you. The idea behind the death march project is dubious at best.

Secondly, the phrase implies that you have no power to control the outcome of your project. Your hands are tied, you’re walking towards destruction. But that’s never really the reality of a project — or else you shouldn’t have taken it on to begin with. You’re the project manager. Figure it out.

Finally, the “death march” symbology has no business being in the workplace.

4. Let’s try thinking outside the box

There is a deep irony that this phrase made the list.

Why?

Because it’s now cliche and unimaginative to use a phrase that simply means, “Let’s get creative.”

And like “let’s leverage our resources,” consider the opposite.

No project manager would say “Let’s only think about this project using standard ideas.”

“Thinking outside the box” is a term that’s spread far across the entire corporate world. It’s time to find a new phrase.

5. Why don’t we circle back on this?

Notice anything about that corgi on a carousel?

He’s circling, but not really going anywhere.

“Circling back” dates back to the days before email, project management software, and other communication tools where we can set our “circle back” date. These software programs eradicate the need for using this phrase.

And we’re better off for it.

More?

Are there more project management phrases that make your teeth grind? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

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Rachel Burger

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Rachel is a former Capterra analyst who covered project management.

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Weird Al Yankovic to the rescue!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyV_UG60dD4

A song I keep humming to myself in some of our project meetings…

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